teachers creating purposes

teachers creating purposes

Our communities deserve good teachers, and our future good teachers need to have good purposes. Life purpose is an intention to make a self-defined contribution that produces prosocial improvements (Damon, 2008).

Furthermore, a creativity-driven purpose provides a lifelong impetus to proactively transform culture and cultural members’ lives for the better (Moran, 2015). Because of teachers’ influence on cultivating the next generation of communities, they are important thought leaders. They can support youth to create momentum toward “the good life” that contributes also to “the common good” (Moran, Bundick, Malin & Reilly, 2013; Moran & Opazo, 2016).

One of the most important foundations for teachers to have before they can be expected to teach about purpose is an understanding of their own life purpose (Damon, 2008). Teachers must have some expertise in the field they are teaching, the skills to spread and share the contents and develop scaffolding with their students. So future teachers should have some sense of their own most important life goals and an understanding of how they make meaning of their own lives before supporting purpose development of their students (Bundick & Tirri, 2014).

Embracing a purpose model could be a real possibility to create a powerful paradigm for teacher education. At the same time, providing opportunities for purpose development among teachers is an enormous challenge. Teacher trainers need to be creative, to launch a change in teacher culture, and to generate more flexible appropriation and use of shared meanings.

For example, when teacher trainers put on the table social change, ethics of public service, community awareness, and social justice as key concepts, then these no longer are merely “class topics” (Opazo, 2015). They will be experiences. It will be necessary to provide opportunities for teachers-in-training to approach the community with a sense of responsibility and self-transcendence.

By Héctor Opazo, Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain




Bundick, M. J., & Tirri, K. (2014). Student perceptions of teacher support and competencies for fostering youth purpose and positive youth development: Perspectives from two countries. Applied Developmental Science, 18(3), 148-162. DOI:10.1080/10888691.2014.924357

Damon, W. (2008). The path to purpose: Helping our children find their calling in life. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Moran, S. (2015). Adolescent aspirations for change: Creativity as a life purpose. Asia Pacific Educational Review, 16(2), 167-175. DOI:10.1007/s12564-015-9363-z

Moran, S., Bundick, M. J., Malin, H., & Reilly, T. S. (2012). How supportive of their specific purposes do youth believe their family and friends are? Journal of Adolescent Research, 28(3), 348-377.

Moran, S., & Opazo, H. (2016, March). The dynamic relationship between service & purpose. Invited talk at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, MA, USA.

Opazo, H. (2015). Experiencias de aprendizaje-servicio en la formación del profesorado: Un estudio de caso [Service-Learning experiences in Teacher Training: A case study]. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain.